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The Margin: CDC ends reporting COVID cases on cruise ships

The Margin: CDC ends reporting COVID cases on cruise ships

If you’re concerned about COVID-19 and want to know how safe it is to board a particular cruise ship, you may be out of luck.

As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is no longer reporting the coronavirus levels on ships in U.S. waters. On its website’s cruise-ship guidance page, the CDC says its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is “no longer in effect and this page will no longer be updated.”

The CDC still advises cruise passengers that the “virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships.” It also notes that if “you have a medical condition or are taking medication that weakens your immune system,” you should talk to your healthcare provider “about your risk before travel.” And passengers sick with COVID-19, or who tested positive for the virus or had close contact with someone testing positive for COVID within the past five days, should not board a cruise ship, the CDC says.

In a statement, the CDC told MarketWatch that it “has determined that the cruise industry has access to the necessary tools … to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 on board.” The CDC also said it “will continue to publish cruise-specific guidance so cruise ships can continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers, and communities.”

The cruise industry is rebounding from the darkest days of the pandemic, when ships didn’t leave ports for months on end. In 2020, the industry saw annual passenger embarkations decline by 81%, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), an industry trade group. Major cruise lines saw revenue declines in the billions of dollars.

But the tide is turning, so to speak: the CLIA says that nearly 100% of ships are expected to be in operation by August of this year.

“I see an industry that has navigated uncharted waters to overcome insurmountable challenges,” said CLIA president and CEO Kelly Craighead in a recent report.

Cruise lines are still putting COVID-19 safety protocols in place for now — and requiring passengers to be vaccinated in many cases. The CDC notes that, “If you have questions about a cruise line’s specific policies, please contact them directly.”

Meanwhile, U.S. COVID-19 cases are climbing again, largely driven by the BA.5 omicron subvariant. The daily average for new U.S. cases stood at 129,938 on Sunday, according to a New York Times tracker, which is up 15% from two weeks ago. But that’s likely too low an estimate, as so many people are now testing at home and the data are not being collected.

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